Senator Joe Pittman is encouraging volunteer fire companies serving rural areas and communities with fewer than 10,000 residents and where forest and brush fires are common to apply for grants of up to $10,000 for training and equipment purchases directly related to fighting brush and forest fires.
Funds from the Volunteer Fire Assistance Grant Program, administered by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), may be used for purchasing mobile or portable radios, installing dry hydrants, performing wildfire prevention and mitigation work, training wildfire fighters, or converting and maintaining federal excess vehicles to be used for fire suppression. DCNR is giving priority to requests for projects that include the purchase of wildfire suppression equipment and protective clothing.
Almost $620,000 was awarded in 2019 to more than 130 volunteer fire companies. The grant program, offered through DCNR and paid through federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, has awarded more than $13 million since it began in 1982.
Grant applications must be electronically submitted through DCNR’s grant webpage by 4 p.m., May 21. Detailed information about the grant program is available at https://www.grants.dcnr.state.pa.us/Dashboard/VFAGrants.
Recognizing that the ongoing response to the COVID-19 crisis is placing a severe financial crisis on Pennsylvania’s volunteer fire companies and EMS squads, Senator Pittman is drafting legislation to establish a special one-time grant program to support those vital first responders.
“As we continue to see the impact of COVID-19 on the Commonwealth, it is evident that our volunteer fire companies and emergency medical services squads need immediate financial assistance,” Senator Pittman said. “These organizations are on the front lines during this crisis. Not only are they being asked to expose themselves to this deadly virus, but the inability to fundraise and a reduction in non-emergency calls are taking a significant financial toll on their operations.”
Senator Pittman’s measure would provide a one-time grant to each fire and EMS Company matching the ones previously approved by PEMA and the Office of the State Fire Commissioner for the 2019-20 Fiscal Year. Additionally, the bill would open a window for EMS and volunteer fire companies that may have missed applying for the original grant. The additional $30 million needed for the grants would come from funds allocated to Pennsylvania through Federal stimulus money.
“Many of these great organizations struggle financially under normal circumstances and the current crisis has certainly exacerbated that need,” Senator Pittman said. “It is incumbent on the Commonwealth to support our volunteer fire companies and EMS agencies as they continue to protect and serve our communities during these challenging times.”
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